Minnesota will join 13 other states in setting vehicle emission standards for vehicle manufacturers in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to jump start the electric vehicle market.

“While reducing emissions, one of the benefits is reducing fuel usage, so it saves money at the pump,” said Gov. Tim Walz during a conference call Wednesday to announce the initiative.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will begin the process this year with public hearings around the state with the hope of adopting the Clean Cars Minnesota Rule next December. The standards would go into effect for 2023 models, which are rolled out in 2022.

Walz said the MPCA has the authority to implement the regulations without legislative approval.

He said the new emission standards will have no effect on any current vehicles and people will not need to have their vehicles modified or tested now or in the future.

The emission limits will be set for the entire fleet of vehicles a manufacturer produces, so if they build large gas or diesel pickups that produce higher emissions, they will have to offset that with other vehicles that have low or no emissions to meet the overall fleet standard.

“If you want to continue driving your F150, go ahead. If you want to take your F150 to pull your fish house onto the ice, do that. We want to make sure there is ice on the lake,” Walz said of the effort to combat climate change.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups praised the announcement.

Consumer Reports and the Union of Concerned Scientists released results of a recent survey saying there is widespread interest in electric vehicles in the state, as well as support for a program that would require automakers to offer more electric car, truck and SUV options.

About 6 in 10 prospective car buyers in Minnesota are interested in electric vehicles, including 30 percent who say they would consider buying or leasing one within the next two years, according to the survey.

And 66% of prospective Minnesota car buyers want automakers to provide more types of electric vehicles, such as SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans.

EV boost

Walz said the standards will give a big boost to the electric and hybrid vehicle market as manufacturers will offer more EV options in Minnesota as they meet the standards. He said that while many Minnesotans want to drive electric vehicles, manufacturers don’t offer all of their models here and instead offer them in states that have adopted clean car standards

“The demand for these are outpacing supply,” Walz said of EVs. And he said manufacturers are already moving forward with more innovations to make electric vehicles better, more powerful and with longer battery life.

Shaheen Ahmed Assista, who teaches in the Automotive & Manufacturing Engineering Technology Department at Minnesota State University, said electric vehicles are advancing but still have a ways to go to be widely adopted.

“My personal feeling would be that electric cars are not really cheap. If you think of Tesla, $50,000 or $60,000, that’s not environmentally friendly to me.”

But he said as technology and mass production improves, prices should come down. “When you see an electric car for $15,000 and a similar gas car for $15,000, then you will see them accepted on a mass scale.”

MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop, who drives an EV, said there is a lot more charging infrastructure going in around the state.

“It is very easy to drive around the state in an EV today and it will get easier.”

She said manufacturers are already producing a F250 electric pickup and there is even an electric mining truck in operation. She said innovation will lead to electric buses and large trucks becoming more common.

The governor said that under the standards there will be no restrictions on what a manufacturer can make or sell and no requirements about what dealerships have to carry. He said the marketplace will decide what dealers stock, but he expects consumers will increasingly be looking toward EVs and hybrids.

The transportation sector is now the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota.

Minnesota has failed to meet its goal of a 15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2015. Last week the Department of Transportation released a report, “Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation,” that calls for creation of a Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council and taking a leadership role in creating electric vehicle corridors and analyzing greenhouse gas emissions in transportation projects.

EV corridors are stretches of highway, usually between larger cities, that have enough quick-charging stations along the way for EV vehicles. The state’s first corridor, finished in 2017, was from the Twin Cities to Duluth. Bishop said there are now 1,100 miles of EV corridors in the state and more are coming.

Recently, President Trump moved to block California and other states from setting emission or mileage standards that are more strict than on the federal level.

“Trump won’t win in court,” Walz said of the move. “The only people who were happy with his decision were the oil companies.”

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